Ethiopia (April-May 2012): Lalibela

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Lalibela is famed for its rock-hewn churches. Known initially as Roha, it was a capital of the Zagwe dynasty. It was later named after King Lalibela, the king of this dynasty who is credited for the construction of the churches. The churches date from the 12th and 13th centuries. The 11 churches in Lalibela are divided into two clusters, the northwestern cluster (6 churches) and southeastern one (4 churches). One church, Bet Giyorgis, stands apart from these two clusters. In each of the two clusters, the churches are connected to each other by narrow passages and tunnels. Many of the churches are monolithic. The largest, Bet Medhane Alem (3rd to 9th photos below), is 11.5m in height. The architectural design, carving process planning, and actual crafting of the churches are stunning achievement: both their inside and outside are carved from the same rock! I like better the cliff setting of some rock-hewn churches of Tigray (some actually predate those in Lalibela), but the churches in Lalibela are more impressive by their sheer size and overall architecture.


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Main street

Old house (made from excavated rocks)

Churches of the northwestern cluster

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Churches of the northwestern cluster

Bet Giyorgis church

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Churches of the southeastern cluster

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Churches of the southeastern cluster

Tunnels and narrow passages

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Tunnels and narrow passages between churches

Saturday market

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Saturday market

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Saturday market


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